As described by Strauss, online agents represent either the buyer or the seller and act in their interests. Within Agent models, a following structure can be recognized:
■ Models representing sellers o Selling agents o Metamediaries o Virtual malls
■ Models representing buyers o Purchasing agents o Reverse auction o Buyer cooperative
Strauss depicts selling agents as cybermediaries that represent one or more companies and help them to sell their products. A commission model is usually applied through an affiliate program. In order to receive a commission, the agent has to refer a user that will conduct a purchase order or other specified action. Whereas in traditional marketing an agent usually represents one manufacturer, agents online often represent the whole industry and can offer competing products. (Ibid)
This model is very common within travel industry, where travel agents represent airlines, hotels, car rental companies etc. For customers, using such agents is beneficiary, as they can negotiate better deals and buying process is more convenient. (Ibid)
Another model represents catalog aggregators, which aggregate information about products into online catalogs from many producers. Customers can then choose conveniently from many products and they have instant information about price and availability. This model is used mainly within B2B solutions. In the most advanced level, catalog aggregators can for example be directly linked to vendors' ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems. (Ibid)
According to Strauss, metamediary is a website that connects stakeholders related to a major event, such as purchase of asset or marriage. Metamediaries reduce customer's information search, assure quality of suppliers and provide relevant information. They can also facilitate transactions. Merchants, on the other hand, benefit from the traffic to their website, that metamediaries generate, and by co-branding. Metamediaries are based on commission models. Strauss et al. stress that trust is important in the relation between the metamediary and customers and that some of them may even choose not to use web ads in order to remain perceived unbiased. (Ibid)
Strauss describes virtual malls as online equivalent to brick-and-mortar shopping malls. Similar to the metamediaries model, stores get the advantage of virtual mall traffic and co-branding. Customers can benefit from having the same shopping cart in all stores and making on purchase at the end, loyalty programs, gift registries, search facilities and shopping suggestions, recommendations and product reviews. (Ibid)
Purchasing agents gather orders from individual customers, which remain anonymous in many cases, and commit large volume orders in order to obtain better price from a vendor. Basically, in this case the customer is the one who set the price for which he/she wishes to buy a product. (Ibid)
Reverse auction is similar to purchasing agents, with the exception that the business is kept on the individual basis. Customer sets the price for which he/she undertakes to make a purchase and vendors bid to meet the price or get at least close enough to interest the buyer. (Ibid)
Buyer cooperative is an alternation of purchasing agents. Again, customers are grouped in order to lower the price, but in the case of buyer cooperative, there is a set relation between the amount of buyers and the price. Buyers, who already joined, know at any time how many other buyers they need to find in order to set the price lower. In this case, buyers themselves do the marketing to find other customers. Strauss et al. note however, that none of the big companies that used this model were able to make profit so far. (Ibid)
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